Tylan Wallace leapt to his left side, reached out, and snagged a pass from Spencer Sanders.
Check that, Lamar Jackson.
It has been eight months since Wallace wore an Oklahoma State jersey, and while he is still hauling in acrobatic catches, it instead is in the purple and black of the Baltimore Ravens. Wallace’s stock continues to grow in the NFL – just like the hole he left in Stillwater continues to get bigger.
Enter Tay Martin.
Martin has spent under a year with OSU but has been primed by the coaching staff to be the Cowboys new 'Z' receiver. The long list of successful OSU wide receivers is a family Martin wants to be a part of.
His own family was the deciding factor in Martin’s transfer. After entering the transfer portal on Aug. 18, 2020, Martin decided on OSU four days later as a way to be closer to his daughter.
“I am a father,” Martin said on Twitter. “I believe it is my responsibility to be closer to my daughter, Reign, and my family during this crisis. COVID-19 has shown me that tomorrow isn’t promised.”
Following his junior year, Martin was a fringe NFL player at Washington State under coach Mike Leach. But a late arrival on campus set Martin back in continuing his trajectory.
“I was too far behind, honestly, as far as the plays go,” Martin said. “Everyone knows Leach’s playbook is kind of like five plays so with that translating over here it was different. It put me in a position where I had to study more and dial into the playbook.”
Martin’s mark on Stillwater was delayed, and even when he put on a signature performance in a Cowboys jersey, it was overshadowed. Martin caught six passes for 73 yards in OSU’s Cheez-It Bowl victory against Miami, but it took a backseat to Brennan Presley’s coming-out party.
Prior to the Miami game, Martin only had nine receptions for 76 yards in seven games. Excluding his bowl game numbers, Martin’s season looked worse than OSU students stumbling out of Murphy’s at closing time.
His lackluster inaugural season with OSU was a major part in Martin’s decision to return for an extra season.
“I just felt like I was leaving stuff on the table,” Martin said. “I had more to prove to scout and to my fans and everybody who watched me play.”
With Wallace’s vacant ‘Z’ spot, Martin will have his opportunity to return to his WSU form. Martin had his first full offseason within the Cowboys program, added to the fact he was a consistent target of quarterback Spencer Sanders in the spring game.
Martin said he has seen major improvement in his game, a sentiment Gundy agrees with. Gundy said Martin was one of the many players who arrived on campus in 2020 not in ideal physical shape.
His improved physique is accredited to coach Rob Glass, and is complimented by a jump in maturity thanks to Gundy. Martin and Gundy had numerous offseason conversations, putting football to the wayside and instead talking about life.
“We talk all the time whether it is about my daughter and his kids or other normal conversations that can get me going,” Martin said. “We’re able to get to know each other more since I just met him this past year. It is a great relationship.”
Gundy said with Martin’s improvements, he has finally put himself in a spot to succeed.
“He is going to give himself a chance to perform at a high level and make some money playing this game if he can stay focused and stay the course over the next four months,” Gundy said.
The money isn’t in reference to an NIL deal for Martin. Instead, Gundy is alluding to Martin’s NFL desires.
Offensive coordinator Kasey Dunn said Martin has filled in Wallace’s former spot nicely, and has a plan in place for his post-college career.
“Tay’s got this vision for himself for the next 10 years,” Dunn said. “It is playing NFL football. He is driven right now.”
Martin and Wallace receive comparisons regularly. With one replacing the other at the ‘Z’ position it is obvious. But Sanders sees differences in the two.
“I can’t really compare Tay and Tylan together because they are kind of two different receivers,” Sanders said. “At the same time too they’re both great receivers.”
Sanders said Martin shines at getting the ball at the high point, praising his vertical. He said Martin consistently makes and secures the catch. He can go low too, making diving catches Wallace was accustomed to at OSU.
He said Martin is able to go low and scoop the ball just as well as he can jump for a catch. It is high praise from Sanders, one of Martin’s non-family related reasons for coming to OSU.
“I watched film on him,” Martin said. “He is a great quarterback. I felt like it was a good fit for me and the proof is in the pudding honestly. A lot of guys as receivers came here and produced and went on to have great careers.”
For lack of a better term, the stars have aligned for Martin. He left Pullman, Washington to be closer to his child, only to sit behind an All-American for a season. A year later, with physical and mental improvements, he has claimed a starting spot and is the quarterback’s favorite target.
Like Wallace before him the stage is set for Martin to catapult to the next level. Like Dez Bryant and James Washington before him, Martin has given himself a shot to become the seventh Cowboy wide receiver drafted since 2010.
“We’ve had a lot of great receivers here and a lot in the past,” Martin said. “I just want to have my name in that same room.”